Is Kneeling for the National Anthem Un-American?

Washington Redskins teammates during the national anthem before a game against the Oakland Raiders. Photo by Keith Allison.

We all know the story now about the NFL players kneeling in protest while the National Anthem is played before the games. It started with then San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He chose to use the wide exposure of the playing of the National Anthem in order to bring attention to what he believes are injustices in our Republic. He believes that black men are being unjustly targeted by the police, up to and including, being shot and killed. He also believes that our justice system, in general, is biased against blacks.

At first, Kaepernick had a handful of other players around the NFL joining him in his protest by also taking a knee during the National Anthem.

Of course, this action has caused controversy, with many taking great offense to the players kneeling and “showing disrespect” during our National Anthem. Not surprisingly, the divide is very wide by racial, as well as political, lines. A CNN poll conducted in September 2017 showed that overall, 49% said kneeling was wrong, while 43% said it was right.


Among whites, 59% say the players are doing the wrong thing while 82% of blacks say it’s the right thing to do. Almost 9 in 10 Republicans say it’s the wrong thing (87%) while just about three-quarters of Democrats say the opposite (72%). And most younger Americans call it the right thing (56% among those under age 45) while a majority of older Americans say it’s wrong (59% among those age 45 or older).


Enter President Donald Trump.

A wise President and good leader would seek to unite the country. A wise President and good leader would seek to understand and acknowledge both sides of the controversy. A wise President and good leader would use this opportunity to open a dialogue and to further everyone’s understanding of the issue and begin to rationally and civilly resolve the problems.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a wise President and good leader. We have Donald “Gotta Pour Gasoline On Every Flaming Controversy” Trump. You would think that someone as brilliant as Trump, a self-proclaimed genius and master negotiator/deal-maker, would understand how to bring people together on this, or at the very least, understand that the attempt should be made.

Instead, we get this:

And this:

Yes, the President of the United States is demanding that the NFL actually fire players that refuse to stand for the National Anthem! And his supporters agree and cheer him.

What the hell country is this?

During the first month that Trump got involved in this, he tweeted about it 37 times (12% of all of his tweets)! It shows a total lack of concern about the division that it’s creating. He’s fomenting outrage and riling up his base, rather than attempting to be a voice of ration and reason. He even praises the “great anger”.

The only thing that resulted from Trump’s involvement is that many, many more players joined in the kneeling protest…essentially now protesting the President and his asinine comments. He has most definitely made the situation worse and the divisions wider.

There has been a massive shift since last fall on this question among blacks. In a poll conducted by Marist for HBO Real Sports last fall, 42% of African-Americans said players should be required to stand; now, that stands at just 13%.


Ok, so let’s take a closer look at the issue and the various controversies entangled in it.

First, the protest and the reasons given for it. Kaepernick and the other kneelers believe that African Americans are being treated unjustly…that they are being systematically targeted by a biased law enforcement and justice system.

Now, set aside whether or not you believe that is true or even if the facts absolutely demonstrate that it is not. That is a debate that is beyond the scope and point of this article. The mere fact that they believe it to be true, and that 82% of African Americans agree with it, presents a huge problem. A problem that cannot be ignored, or mocked, or denigrated. It must be addressed in a rational, civil, direct, and comprehensive manner.

For example, instead of fomenting anger and division, a wise President and good leader might take this issue head on and conduct a series of prime time discussions about the issues. An in-depth discussion with a panel of people representing all sides, presided by the President to give it the bully pulpit attention, and attended by representatives from law enforcement and the justice department, and Kaepernick and other African American leaders (exclude Sharpton, Jackson, and the other race-baiting charlatans). Present facts and reason with a civil, open dialogue and cover each point of contention until it is resolved (unlike the quick hit, talking-point, “debates” on “the shows” and campaign debates).

Next, on the issue of whether it is unpatriotic/un-American to not stand for the National Anthem. This one is a bit more complicated, because, yes, standing and respecting the National Anthem and the American flag is definitely a display of patriotism. But the question becomes, is not standing always a display of un-patriotism no matter the circumstances? And, what does the National Anthem and the flag really represent?

Before going any further with this, let me pause to proclaim my love for the American flag and the National Anthem. Even after leaving military service over 26 years ago, to this day, when the National Anthem is played, I stand and immediately snap to attention, remove my hat, and place hand over heart. I feel great pride each and every time, while witnessing many around me who display lackluster respect…many of whom are the same people professing such offense to what the kneelers are now doing.

As for the flag, it flies in front of my home every day:

I call this picture, “And the flag was still there…”

That said, I don’t really have a problem with people peacefully protesting what they perceive to be injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem. Frankly, I find it a somewhat respectful way to protest as compared to sitting/ignoring it, or worse yet, burning the flag or stomping on it, and the like.

But Trump and his minions have convinced his supporters that it is disrespectful to not stand and show respect for the National Anthem and flag under all circumstances. They erroneously believe that by not doing so, it is disrespecting all those who serve and have served in the military, as if that is all that the flag and anthem represent. That is a completely erroneous and simplistically ignorant view of it.

The American flag and the National Anthem represent the whole of “America”. That is, they represent the idea of America…the exceptionalism of America…the entire “American Experiment”. That encompasses everything that brought forth America, such as the founding principles it was built upon and the spirit of the people that built it. It is not simply “honoring our men and women of the military”, although that is a part of it.

Therefore, when a large percentage of our people believe that we are not living up to that idea of and exceptionalism of America, and that we are not abiding by those founding principles, then it is wholly appropriate for them to conduct a peaceful protest during an event that is entirely intended to celebrate those ideals and principles.

In fact, if I was convinced that they were correct about what they are protesting, I would be kneeling with them.

But Trump and most of his most ardent supporters have no clue about these founding principles and what makes America exceptional, so how can they understand what the National Anthem and the flag really represent?

How can they understand how to make America great again if they have no idea what made it great to begin with?

The spirit of an American is one that stands up to injustice and fights for what is right. One that does not obediently stand for a corrupt system to dictate what we do. We no longer allow for dictators or kings or anyone to rule us. The original American patriots didn’t stand and honor the British flag when they were told to, while they recognized that the British authority abused their rights and was not treating them with the same respect as demanded by all British citizens. No, the patriotic thing to do…the American thing to do…was to protest and fight on many levels and in many ways, resulting in the successful revolution and ultimate independence.

That is the uniquely patriotic, American way.

“But, Steve…you can’t compare those who fought in the Revolution to the kneelers! That’s crazy! The kneeling protesters today are wrong about what they are protesting!”

That may be, but it doesn’t matter. If they truly, sincerely believe that the injustices exist and that we are, as a nation, not living up to the ideals that are the promise of America, then they are right to protest it. Now, if there is strong evidence that they are disingenuously protesting for other nefarious reasons (ala Sharpton and Jackson), then that’s another story. However, there is no indication of that, that I am aware of.

It is then our responsibility, as a nation, to convince them otherwise in a rational, civil manner. We don’t do that by distracting from the issue by accusing them of disrespecting and protesting our men and women of the military. We don’t do that by mocking, ridiculing, and disparaging their lack of patriotism. We don’t do that by having the President of the United States call for them to be fired for lack of standing for the National Anthem. How absurd is that?

Sorry, Sen. Cruz, in your seemingly continued attempts to garner favor among Trump and his supporters, you are wrong on this one as well…

“When Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American (than players taking a knee), well I got to tell you, I can,” Cruz said during a campaign stop in Corpus Christi, Texas, according to The Caller Times.

The Hill

Actually, that was not even an accurate quote from Beto.

O’Rourke, asked at a town hall meeting if players’ protests were disrespectful, replied that they were not and that he could think of nothing “more American than to peacefully” protest for a cause one feels strongly about, The Caller Times reported.

The Hill

Beto was right*.

*No, that does not mean I am a leftist who hopes that Beto wins with all of his leftist ideas. It only means that on this issue, he was more right than Cruz, as I thoroughly explained above. Cruz should know better, as he most definitely understands the founding principles and that the National Anthem and flag represent all of those.

About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About Steve Wood 257 Articles
I am a husband, a father, a small business owner, a veteran, and a Citizen of the United States. As my avatar depicts, I believe The People need to relearn and focus on the basic principles that our Republic was built upon. My contributions here will be geared toward that end. Please join me in rational, civil discourse.


  1. Something the red hatters have apparently missed is that demanding people stand during the anthem out of respect diminishes the respect shown by those who stand voluntarily.

    Of course, that’s presuming it’s actually about honoring the country to begin with and not, in fact, merely mobilizing said country’s idiot contingent.

  2. Remember when President Obama was President and AVI’s and bumper stickers, and shirts, started selling with the upside flag that means we are being attacked? Tell me how is that not being disrespectful to the military? hmm.
    I don’t believe it is, just as I don’t believe the NFL players kneeling is, both show peoples concern that our government and our people aren’t living up to their end of the Republic deal. Peaceful protest is protected from Government influence, and President Trump and his supporters once again continue to show how little they understand that founding document.

  3. First yes. Steve is absolutely correct in the the American thing to do is whatever you feel in your heart to do. The American thing to do is abide by the constitution and let people peaceably protest how they see fit.

    Are they shitting on cop cars and burning buildings no. They are kneeling respectfully during the national anthem. There is NO rule (except in the military) that says anyone must do something when they hear the anthem or see the flag.

    The fact that they are actually doing a specific thing is honoring the flag while still protesting. They are recognizing that the anthem is playing and are paying homage to it in a way that lets them protest as well. They aren’t simply ignoring it. That would be disrespectful.

    And even if they did ignore it instead of kneel, who cares? It’s a personal thing. We believe in personal freedom and Freedom of expression. If you cannot handle someone personally expressing themselves in a manor that does nothing to you, or disrupts what you are doing in anyway, maybe YOU are the one being disrespectful.

  4. Steve, this article was what i was trying to say yesterday to another fellow poster. you just are able to say it so much better. another thing i would point out to people is that a lot of these people that are so bent out of shape about the kneelers and saying it disrespects our flag, they are the same people that fly the confederate flag

  5. Beautiful picture Steve.

    This one is easy. These people are at work. Employers discretion…..and my hope is that the employer wouldn’t tolerate it.

    POTUS has no business sticking his orange nose in it and has exacerbated the controversy. It would have died out had he not been a flame throwing budinski.

  6. Very well said, and also as an indictment of the poison that has been injected into the Body Politic was that you felt the need to have such lines as “Before going any further with this, let me pause to proclaim my love for the American flag and the National Anthem.” and “*No, that does not mean I am a leftist who hopes that Beto wins with all of his leftist ideas.”

  7. …on this one, I respectfully disagree.
    (This whole shebang is a form of culture wars.)

    I was taught to respectfully cover my heart,
    when the National Anthem was rendered.

    As for the protests,
    that is fine on-your-own-time and on-your-own-dime.
    However, when the pads go on and you’re in public….
    it reflects badly when you demonstrate a
    total disregard for tradition.
    For my two cents.

    Here’s what I posted a few months back;
    concerning our ‘dear leader’….

    …concerning the ‘culture wars’…

    Seems he’s incensed/distracted a whole ‘nuther
    group of people…with the NFL wars.

    He has divided a fan-base into ‘minimally’ four groups, maybe even five.
    1) Pro-Trump.
    2) Anti-Trump.
    3) Pro-flag/Anthem/Country.
    4) Anti-American Socialists/Statists/Marxists.

    Maybe five, if you count those who don’t give a flying-fork
    about anything but the game. Because the game is now
    being affected by the rabid insertion of politics.

    (What makes it so inflammatory, politics IS the religion of the left.)

    Which leads me to a series of queries:
    What does the knee signify, and to whom?
    What does the raised fist signify, and to whom?
    What does the locked-arms indicate, and to whom?
    How should the fans react to the injection of politics,
    into what is considered a game….or their cultural event?

    And for me; why should I dismiss (what I perceive to be)
    an insult to the flag, for which I stand?

    This whole shebang reminds me of watching a graduation
    ceremony at any major (left-leaning) campus.
    As the anthem is being ‘cued up’…..
    many of the professors make a great show:
    a) By stuffing their hands in their pockets.
    b) Not respecting OR honoring the tradition.
    c) Chatting animatedly during the whole ceremony.
    d) More or less ‘clearly demonstrating’ their disgust at the tradition.
    e) Then resuming their solemn face, when it’s over.


    They don’t know the meaning of Semper Fi
    But that’s just me.

  8. The private decisions of the players and their employers do not trouble me at all. The handwringing on both sides is contrived and and played out. When the economy contracts (because nothing lasts forever), people will wonder why they thought this ‘issue’ was so darned important.

  9. I despise the way Trump uses this to further divide God knows I do.

    ” A wise President and good leader would seek to unite the country. A wise President and good leader would seek to understand and acknowledge both sides of the controversy. A wise President and good leader would use this opportunity to open a dialogue and to further everyone’s understanding of the issue and begin to rationally and civilly resolve the problems.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have a wise President and good leader. We have Donald “Gotta Pour Gasoline On Every Flaming Controversy” Trump.”

    Could not have been said any better Steve!

    At the same time I do find it to be disrespectful to our Country and for what it stands for. Do we as a people have the right to peacefully protest….Yes, we do. Why do this at a game? (not that they don’t have the right) where they know most people are American apple pie and baseball? Does that not also add to the divisiveness? especially when it’s always been that the Anthem was sang and people were and are respectful enough to stand with hand over heart if for nothing else “Respect”

    Now having said that I also find it to be extremely hypocritical of those who COMPLAIN and call all sorts of names to those who kneel when they still PAY to go and sit there!

    I despise Hollywood and ALL it stands for. I never pay to go see the trash they are pushing on America, NEVER! I know others don’t agree and that is fine it really is. That’s just my way of trying to stay true to what I believe and where I stand. Hollywood IMO HATES all I believe in and stand for, so why would I give them my money or support them in ANY way? I ask the same of those who attend these games! If you hate what they do then don’t support them with your money.If all had done that I don’t believe we would still be debating this.

    Just my thoughts and absolutely nothing meant toward anyone here at TNB!

    Respect to all! 🙂

    Thank You Steve as always for thought provoking articles!

  10. I really don’t care at all about the football kneelers. If Americans feel that it disrespects America, they will simply not watch the NFL. If the NFL feels that the viewership slump warrants doing something about the situation, it will do so. The POTUS has zero business sticking his nose into private business. The cult didn’t like it when bobo did it… but it is totes cool when their cheeto jesus does it. Sad.

  11. I tend to be against the kneeling. Minimum wage in the NFL for one year is essentially a decade of salary for the average American. I think there are more productive ways to ‘protest’ by giving back in the community and making the difference in the life of a young fan.

    As a longtime NFL fan, I’m slowly going away from it. Yes, the kneeling controversy has been a big part, but there are other things too. Injuries, concussions, officiating, the insanely archaic tv broadcasting rights, and the length of games are also factors. The NFL (and to a lesser extent the other professional leagues) have priced out see a live game for me. Heck, the cable packages are obnoxiously expensive too!

    Ultimately, I think the NFL will fade away in a generation or two. Way too much entertainment competition from streaming and the traditional middle class household probably won’t have kids playing football due to the injury risk.

  12. I get why the players protest and I respect their right to do so. Not a big fan of the controversy in general.

    Trump needs to keep his grimy mitts out of it. The NFL is horribly politicized, and therefore, I havent watched in probably 2 years.

  13. Does anyone old enough remember the attempted flag burning incident at a Dodgers baseball game where Rick Monday ran over and grabbed the lighter and flag before the protesters had a chance to burn it? I wonder how Trump would have handled that situation? Would Rick Monday have become a hero of the alt-right? (Something I highly doubt he would have wanted) Would the left have boycotted the Dodgers? Hmmmm…

  14. Trump and his lackeys are using the issue as a way to attack black athletes. Period. End of story.

    Trump is as patriotic an American as is Vladimir Putin.

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